Editorial: Air Force Modernizes GPS

A 184Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

By the time you read this, the "switch" will have probably taken place. Part of the U.S. Air Force Architecture Evolution Plan (AEP) is to transition the aging mainframe system used for GPS ground control to a serverbased architecture. Many surveyors are probably aware that ground control segment is used to upload the almanacs to the satellites on a daily basis. I was recently invited to sit in on a teleconference regarding the AEP.

The driving force behind the migration, in addition to replacing the legacy mainframes, is the new generation of satellites, the Block IIF (F for follow-on). The IIFs have increased signal and navigation capabilities that the current system cannot implement. The AEP will allow the Air Force to handle up to 60 satellites. Currently, they are handling 31 "birds". With the launch next year of the first IIF, the number will rise to 32.

During the phone conference, the Air Force representative stressed that AEP has been underway for more than year, and that several practice uploads have taken place, as well as three rehearsals of the actual transition. Even so, part of the plan includes a reversion to the old system if problems arise. Since the satellites will continue to orbit, the switch-over, which will take several hours, is likened to changing the engine on a car that is traveling down the highway at 65 miles per hour. For security reasons, the Air Force did not announce when the switch would take place, only that it would occur in September.

Our Aging Infrastructure
Sadly, the tragedies of the weakened levees in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck in August of 2005 and the August 1, 2007 bridge collapse in Minneapolis are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to America’s aging infrastructure. In the interview with the Leica Americas president Bob Williams in the October 2006 issue, I wrote at length about our Interstate Highway System and ASCE’s Infrastructure Report Card. While most of the categories received grades of D, bridges received a grade of C. What conclusions might be drawn from those scores?

A New Writer
Where do you stand on GIS? Opinions are all over the board. Personally, I believe the main reason why many surveyors have "turned their backs" on GIS is because they have no desire to be associated with lower-accuracy work, and because they do not wish to be engaged in massive amounts of mapping based on lower-accuracy data. But how do you, as a survey practitioner, handle record-keeping and previous jobs? When the call comes in, do you rely on institutional knowledge of the fact that you have worked in an area? Do you keep these records on a map or in a map book? Do you hit the filing cabinets? Suppose you had a digital system that you could call up at a moment’s notice ­ a system that shows prior work, control monuments, and other important information needed to do new work in an area. What if this system also included information about job status, billing, and everything else you need to successfully execute a job? Surveyor Robert Young has such a system, and it has made his business more efficient and more profitable. We welcome him as a new writer this month with the first in a series of articles that will explain how he has used GIS to make his staff’s life easier and his company more productive.

Marc Cheves is editor of the magazine.

A 184Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE